One bad experience is all it takes to land on a customer's blacklist. And, unfortunately, many businesses will never get a second chance with a customer before he or she gives up in the business forever.
For this reason, businesses must actively request feedback from customers in order to increase retention and reduce attrition. If they fail to do this, customers are quite likely to just walk away. 1st Financial Training Services reports that 96% of unhappy customers do not bother to voice their concerns or complaints. Moreover, 91% of those quietly dissatisfied customers leave and never come back. If a business doesn’t take action to find out why customers are leaving, it is likely to experience a decline in both sales and reputation without ever really knowing why.
Negative customer feedback can be difficult to hear. But by engaging with customers, a business can head off these negative repercussions before they happen. Creating a direct dialog with customers through feedback surveys will enable a business to understand what would make customers happier and prompt even the quietest customers to share what is making them unhappy.
Responding to Negative Criticism
How a company responds to negative satisfaction surveys is as important as the survey itself. Here are a few important questions to ask when responding to negative customer feedback.
1. Should you respond?
The general consensus among experts is that a business should respond to all – if not the vast majority – of negative responses it receives. Research shows that 70% of dissatisfied customers will give a business a second chance if the business is willing to resolve a complaint.
Unless the customer is clearly unreasonable, a business should reply to all of the negative reviews it receives. Doing so will show respondents that the business truly cares about them. But, in addition, research finds that even with the time and money spent to satisfy complaints, a business almost always sees a return of 200-500%. For these reasons, it makes little sense to ignore negative customer feedback.
2. What should you say?
Choosing the right words makes all the difference. While customers want an immediate response to their complaints, generally one week, a business must take at least a little time to think before responding. The worst thing a business can do is be rash or defensive, which will only worsen what might already be a challenging situation.
Keep responses brief, apologize if necessary, and describe what is being done to resolve the issue. A business can also use their response as an opportunity to draw attention to its strengths. The goal is to improve relations with unhappy customers. Angry or irritated responses will not do much to win them over.
3. Should you make any changes to your business?
Criticism can be hard, but a business should also look at it as a gift. Legitimate negative feedback provides opportunities to improve operations. It allows businesses to take a step back and honestly assess if they’re consistently delivering the best possible customer service and providing optimal value to customers.
A business can refine its goods and services based on feedback, adding more features that customers want and taking away those they don’t. Making changes to business operations – no matter how big or small – is not a sign of failure. Some of the today’s most successful businesses have been built on making changes based on negative customer feedback. But the key is to make sure that enough negative feedback has been gathered to justify making any changes. If a business is receiving a lot of similar feedback from a lot of customers, then there is a good chance that a change is needed.
The Value of Criticism
Many businesses think that by ignoring negative feedback, unhappy customers will somehow magically disappear or that other customer couldn’t possibly share the same criticisms. But nothing could be further from the truth. A business needs to respond to all dissatisfied customers, addressing the specific issues customers are complaining about.
While positive feedback is great, it often doesn’t provide insight into where a business may need to improve. Negative feedback, on the other hand, provides a learning opportunity to help win back customers, increase lifetime value, and improve products or services. In other words, handled correctly, negative feedback is an opportunity to build a bigger and better business.